Leashes on kids. There’s a topic to divide a room. And not just a room full of parents, because everyone seems to have an opinion on this one. (Which begs the question, why on earth should non-parents care one way or the other?)
I believe that one of the first lessons of parenting is to let go of your preconceived ideas about parenting. And twins have really helped me flex my flexibility in that regard.
So when an aunty gave us these teddy bear shaped child safety harnesses, I didn’t automatically put them in the Not-For-Me pile, where the “Mummy’s Little Devil” T-shirts ended up.
At first I shoved them deep into a cupboard so that I could deny their existence for a little while. The idea of restraining my children made me feel uncomfortable, there’s no doubt. And I just felt that they sent the wrong message to the children themselves: that we don’t trust them.
But then the babies started walking, and getting restless in their stroller. We started going to busy markets. We found an incredible playground right on the waterfront. What would I do if they ran in separate directions? How could I ever go places with them alone and be sure that they would both be safe?
So I started with small practice exercises, hoping they would ensure that we would never need leashes. I’d get the kids in and out of the car and give directions. (Luckily “car” and “door” are some of their favourite first words). We had small introductions to the beach, where I discovered that the boys would stick pretty close to me most of the time, unless they saw a tasty piece of seaweed… ewww!!
There’s been lots of wild gesticulating (me), the occasional tantrum (them) and quite a bit of forced hand-holding.
But when it came to crowded airports and plane rides, my husband I were torn. We didn’t want to deal with the inconvenience of travelling with a stroller if we didn’t have to. But we were concerned about losing control of our little tear-aways.
It became an experiment, the results of which are indicated in the photographs. One of the two really enjoyed being chased around with a teddy bear on his back. It gave him more freedom of movement than he might have been afforded because he is a fast mover, an explorer and a climber (the alternative was to sit on a lap).
Meanwhile, the other kid wandered within a fairly small radius. His mission was to wave and smile at each and every passenger in the airport, but in a leisurely manner that was easy to manage. When we did test the leash, he seemed most concerned about the cuddly toy looking over his shoulder. Restraint wasn’t needed at all.
In summary, these kiddos once again demonstrated the bleedingly obvious fact that all children are different and require different things. Some will need more restraint than others, and some situations — and families — will call for a tighter reign (so to speak) than others.
I think there is more judgement around this issue than is fair, and I really think that parents of toddlers are just getting by any way they can. I still don’t love child harnesses at all, but I can see their place and I can understand why parents might choose to use them for adventurous or speedy kids.
Hopefully, some day, toddlers in leashes won’t receive any more attention than toddlers in T-shirts that say “Future Hunk”!